Healing garden for a veteran wins national award

Harvest Home -  Julie Melear

The Wounded Warrior home, built for the Solar Decathalon, with its award-winning landscape design

George Washington University graduate students Julie Melear, Janet Conroy, and Mary Sper’s landscape design for HARVEST HOME, a Wounded Warrior home built for a veteran, has won the Gold Award in outdoor design from the Association for Professional Landscape Design (APLD). The house was designed and built by college students competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, which challenges collegiate teams to design solar powered houses that are cost effective, energy efficient, and attractive.

The goal for the solar competition was to create a comfortable and healing environment for its resident, a military veteran battling a combination of physical and emotional trauma. The landscape design – which was the basis of Julie Melear’s master’s thesis – continued the house’s conservation theme with the following outdoor elements:

  • A rainwater cistern to collect 100 percent of the roof runoff;
  • Deck tiles made from recycled tires;
  • A beehive and compost bin;
  • Two organic gardens with edible plants.

The house, including the outdoor landscape elements, was donated to Wounded Warrior Homes in the San Diego area and a veteran has already been chosen to occupy the home.

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Site Conditions
The house sat on tarmac at a former Marine Corps base in Irvine, California. The lot measured 78’ x 60’ and the house had to face south to maximize sun exposure on the solar panels. On both sides, an invisible 52-degree angle established a Solar Envelope which had to contain house and landscape. The project was subjected to a limited water supply and harsh Santa Ana winds during the competition.

Client’s Needs
HARVEST HOME was Team Capitol DC’s entry in the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. In October 2013, 20 worldwide collegiate teams competed to design and build zero energy homes that were also attractive and affordable.

Design Intent/Project Description
HARVEST HOME was designed for a returning war veteran suffering from PTSD. All aspects of the landscape were designed for the health of the veteran as well as the desire to reconnect him to community and family.

The foremost design goal was to create a peaceful and healing environment for the injured war veteran.

The second was to incorporate sustainable elements that raise the home’s energy efficiency and showcase the value of responsible landscape design.

The third goal was to work within strict parameters including temporary installation, harsh environment, tight space and solar envelope limitations. The concept for the design, “Erasing the Lines”, incorporated this theme in all design decisions.

Harvest Home -  Julie Melear

The final landscape plan doubles the square footage of the 900 sq. foot home through use of ramps, decks and landings and creates an enjoyable way to take advantage of the mild climate. The Harvest Deck showcased a unique dining table featuring a water rill and herbs down the center of the table. This high impact water feature provided sensory stimulation for the residents and combined with the rustling grasses on the north edge of the deck to reinforce the restorative qualities of nature.





Environmental Responsibility
Irvine is in the Native Coastal Scrub plant community. Many of the plants selected were native to the region and able to withstand adverse climatic conditions without additional intervention. Two vegetable gardens provide fresh, organic produce enhancing the veteran’s ability to heal both physically and emotionally. Research shows that working with the earth engages the homeowner in a restorative, healing activity that stimulates positive growth.

Due to the temporary nature of the exhibit and the growing interest in new farming techniques, the edibles were planted in recycled milk crates. These modular units could be changed based on the season and weather conditions. Not only are they easy to use, they are very affordable and represent alternative methods of gardening.

Other energy efficient elements included a cistern, which collected roof rainwater. This stormwater, along with grey water was used to irrigate many of the plants. Additional sustainable practices included recycled materials, solar lighting, a beehive, a compost bin and a clothesline used to save energy when drying laundry. We built a system that harvested valuable resources to create a home that is both sustainable and beautiful.

Harvest Home - Julie Melear